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New Human Group?

 
 
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 04:52 pm
A previously unknown kind of human group vanished from the world so completely that it has left behind the merest wisp of evidence that it ever existed " a single bone from the little finger of a child, buried in a cave in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia.

Researchers extracted DNA from the bone and reported Wednesday that it differed conspicuously from that of both modern humans and of Neanderthals, the archaic human species that inhabited Europe until the arrival of modern humans on the continent some 44,000 years ago.

The child who carried the DNA lineage was probably 5 to 7 years old, but it is not yet known if it was a boy or a girl. The finger bone was excavated by Russian archaeologists in 2008 from a place known as the Denisova cave.

The researchers, led by Johannes Krause and Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, are careful not to call the Denisova child a new human species, though it may prove to be so, because the evidence is preliminary.

But they say the genetic material extracted from the bone, an element called mitochondrial DNA, belonged to a distinct human lineage that migrated out of Africa at a different time from the two known archaic human species. Homo erectus, found in East Asia, left Africa two million years ago, and the ancestor of Neanderthals emigrated some 500,000 years ago. The number of differences found in the child’s DNA indicate that its ancestors left Africa about one million years ago, the researchers say. Their report is published online in the journal Nature.

Dr. Paabo, a pioneer in decoding ancient human DNA, said at a news conference that before asserting that the Denisova child was a new species, he needed to rule out the possibility that it belonged to a population formed by interbreeding between the new lineage and a known species. He said he was analyzing the rest of the child’s DNA, from the main or nuclear genome, to test this possibility.

“Back at the time this lineage came out of Africa, it had to have been a distinct group, perhaps a distinct species,” he said. “But whether or not this individual was a distinct species, we have to wait for the nuclear DNA.”

The finger bone was found in a layer laid down on the cave floor between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago, according to radiocarbon dating. At that time, toward the end of the Pleistocene Ice Age, which ended 10,000 years ago, the climate was probably much colder. The people of the new lineage presumably wore clothes, Dr. Krause said, because chimpanzees and gorillas cannot withstand much cold, suggesting that fur alone is inadequate protection.

The artifacts found in the cave in the same layer as the finger bone include ornaments and a bracelet that are typical of modern human sites from the Upper Paleolithic age in Europe. These are puzzling artifacts to be found with a nonmodern human species. But bones can move up and down in archaeological sites, and it is hard to know if the finger bone is truly associated with these artifacts, Dr. Krause said, even though there is little sign of mixing in the cave’s layers.

The valley beneath the Denisova cave 30,000 years ago would have been mostly a steppe, or treeless grassland, according to pollen analysis, and it was roamed by ice-age species like the woolly mammoth and woolly rhino, Dr. Krause said.

The region was inhabited by both Neanderthals and modern humans at that time. Counting the new human lineage, three human species may have lived together in proximity. “So the picture of the humans around in the late Pleistocene gets a lot more complex and a lot more interesting,” Dr. Paabo said.

The standard view has long been that there were three human migrations out of Africa " those of Homo erectus; of the ancestor of Neanderthals; and finally, some 50,000 years ago, of modern humans. But in 2004, archaeologists reported that they had found the bones of miniature humans who lived on the Indonesian island of Flores until 13,000 years ago, posing a serious problem for this view. The new lineage is the second such challenge, and it suggests that human migrations out of Africa, though far from continuous, were more frequent than supposed.

“We are learning more and more what a luxuriant evolutionary tree humans have had,” said Ian Tattersall, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The tree during evolutionary time has kept sprouting new branches, all but one of which die off, before the process is repeated.

As recently as 30,000 years ago, it now appears, there were five human species in the world: Homo erectus, the little Floresians, Neanderthals, modern humans and the new lineage from the Denisova cave. This is similar to the situation two million years ago, when four hominid species are known to have lived in the Turkana Basin of Kenya, Dr. Tattersall said.

“We think it’s normal to be alone in the world as we are today,” Dr. Tattersall said, and to see human evolution as a long trend leading to Homo sapiens. In fact, the tree has kept generating new branches that get cut off, presumably by the sole survivor. “The fossil record is very eloquent about this, and it’s telling us we are an insuperable competitor,” Dr. Tattersall said. Modern humans’ edge over other species probably emerged from their ability to process information: “We can invent alternatives in our heads instead of accepting nature as it is,” Dr. Tattersall said.

If the nuclear DNA of the Denisova child should differ as much as its mitochondrial DNA does from that of Neanderthals and modern humans, the case for declaring it a new species would be strengthened. But it would be unusual, if not unprecedented, for a new species to be recognized on the basis of DNA alone.

In new excavations starting this summer, archaeologists will look for remains more diagnostic than the finger bone. Researchers will also begin re-examining the fossil collections in museums to see if any wrongly assigned bones might belong instead to the species of the new lineage, Dr. Krause said.

 
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 05:04 pm
Interesting times!
0 Replies
 
Joe Nation
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 05:47 pm
Quote:
Researchers will also begin re-examining the fossil collections in museums to see if any wrongly assigned bones might belong instead to the species of the new lineage, Dr. Krause said.


Yes. I would think there would be a LOT of rechecking.

Joe(Look here, Harry, here's three more!)Nation
0 Replies
 
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 05:49 pm
cool
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 06:59 pm
@edgarblythe,
It makes you wonder just how many branches of Homo Sapiens there were at one time (scattered in the hidden places of the planet).
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 07:06 pm
I suspect if they are just now finding a third, there could be several more.
0 Replies
 
Reyn
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 07:40 pm
@edgarblythe,
edgarblythe wrote:

A previously unknown kind of human group vanished from the world so completely that it has left behind the merest wisp of evidence ...

I wish these had been my neighbours.
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 08:31 pm
Wow!
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 08:34 pm
@edgarblythe,
Considering that there is abundant evidence of the Neanderthal branch of the family, it's really difficult to imagine that a lone phalange is conclusive evidence of a third branch. That this gossamer thin evidence suggests 4th, 5th and beyond branches is at best a fantasy (An intellectually amusing fantasy perhaps, but a fantasy never-the-less).

Consider this about the Neanderthal:

There isn't even uniform consensus that they represented a separate species as opposed to a sub-species.

They seem to have been limited in their range to Europe and Western and Central Asia some 600,000 years ago, and yet we have a very reliable body of evidence for their existence.

For Species #3 we have a single finger bone.

Obviously, it is possible that someone has found the "first" evidence of a 3rd Human species, but how much would you bet on it?

A buck?

Sure, why not? The odds have to be well into the billions --- at least.

Same reason for betting $20 or $100, depending upon your means, but much more than that?

The multiple millions it will take to prove this assertion? The lifetimes of research?

Actually, I don't understand why the possibility of numerous and "failed" other evolutionary branches of humanity is even interesting, let alone "cool."

We know right now that several primate species branched off of the evolutionary track we once shared.

We also know that that there were several branches that evolved beyond apes but never made it to human.

So now we have the finger bone of a creature that might be representative of an evolutionary branch that was in geologically temporal proximity to Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons, and we should get giddy?

Let's assume the finding proves everything one might hope to prove about a 3rd human species -- So what?

It is a leap of light years and soon to be a major motion picture dynamics to suggest that any representative of the 3rd Species may still be roaming the earth.

So what does a 3rd Species tell us?

That evolution is real?

Duhh!

Not only is this a non-story for the layman, it is a pathetically manufactured story for so-called experts.



edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 08:39 pm
Finn, I don't pretend to understand an attitude like yours. If anybody else wishes to respond to you, that's fine.
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 09:14 pm
@edgarblythe,
edgarblythe wrote:

Finn, I don't pretend to understand an attitude like yours. If anybody else wishes to respond to you, that's fine.


Please don't strain yourself edgar.

Feel free to post fanciful nonsense in the guise of scientific fact.

Only the mean-spirited like me will shake your faith in humanity and not recognize how "cool" this nonsense can be.

It must be tough for a generous and poetic soul such as yourself to bear the onslaught of barbarians such as me.

Good God, the timidity of your insipid response gives me a stomach ache. Were we all supposed to simply buy the "science" of your post and empathize with your wonder?

If you want to post a banal fantasy thread then you should, at least, make it clear in your original post that you would prefer that only those in tune with your fantasy need respond.

Cycloptichorn
 
  6  
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 09:39 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
What Edgar meant to say is: You're a ******* dick, Finn, and that's why you don't have any friends here.

Cycloptichorn
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Thu 25 Mar, 2010 01:00 am
As far as i can see here, Edgar simply reported an interesting story. That doesn't make him responsible for its provenance nor the accuracy of any particular scientist's speculation.
0 Replies
 
High Seas
 
  2  
Reply Thu 25 Mar, 2010 01:30 am
@Finn dAbuzz,
Finn dAbuzz wrote:
.........................
Consider this about the Neanderthal:

There isn't even uniform consensus that they represented a separate species as opposed to a sub-species.

They seem to have been limited in their range to Europe and Western and Central Asia some 600,000 years ago, and yet we have a very reliable body of evidence for their existence....

That's wrong, Finn - Neanderthals are known to have been living in Europe as recently as 30,000 years ago. How long they had been there, I don't know, but they were a parallel branch (not ancestors of ours) and DNA testing shows there was no interbreeding. Our own great-grandparents, btw, could build boats and navigate the open seas long before most scientists had thought possible until last year:
Quote:
.....on the Greek island of Crete. Stone tools found there, archaeologists say, are at least 130,000 years old, which is considered strong evidence for the earliest known seafaring in the Mediterranean and cause for rethinking the maritime capabilities of prehuman cultures. Crete has been an island for more than five million years, meaning that the toolmakers must have arrived by boat........

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2010/02/16/science/16archeo_chart/16archeo_chart-articleInline.jpg
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/science/16archeo.html
I don't think the ice ever reached as far south as Crete even in the worst glaciation, so the people couldn't have walked, and so I question the "prehuman" term - lots of animals in addition to our cousins the apes can make and use tools, but shipbuilding? Navigation? I just don't know enough to have an opinion - but there's enough data already to show the Siberian find mentioned in Edgar's article wasn't all that surprising.
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Thu 25 Mar, 2010 08:27 pm
PBS did some interesting films on the origins of man, including the Neanderthals, within the past year and they might still be available to watch on line.

One of the conclusions scientists have reached is that there were never very many Neanderthals and that although they existed for a long period of time, they were always spread thinly. Another conclusion, based on the evidence of almost no change in the Neanderthal tool kit is that they failed to adapt and thus died out.
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Thu 25 Mar, 2010 08:53 pm
NPR had a fairly lengthy report on its "Morning Edition" show this a.m. on the Altai discovery. Finn's opinions nothwithstanding, it seems that most scientists are quite excited about this find and its implications.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 25 Mar, 2010 09:04 pm
I look on the discoveries related to humanity's past and related findings the way one feels when new information is unearthed regarding one's personal family members - after getting separated for half a lifetime or more.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 25 Mar, 2010 09:20 pm
@plainoldme,
That's interesting. The Israelis have done some archaeology which has lead them to conclude that the Neanderthals failed to compete as a result of diet--the paucity thereof. They report finding areas which have been inhabited by early modern man and by Neanderthal, with the Neanderthal being the later arrival. The most significant difference they can find in their campsites is the in the middens, which for the Neanderthals, have preponderant animal remains, and little in the way of vegetal remains. They surmise that the lack of variety in their diet meant that individual family groups either faced starvation or migration under any circumstances in which the game grew scarce.
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Thu 25 Mar, 2010 10:06 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
<snort!>
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Fri 26 Mar, 2010 10:12 am
@Setanta,
I read something similar to that as well.

Do you know anything about how the anti-Darwin cadres feel about Neanderthals? Do they dismiss Neanderthals out of hand or do they present their own explanation about them?
0 Replies
 
 

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